Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mitt Romney Can Speak

Well, that was a surprise. His acceptance speech was in turns emotional, powerful, and presidential. Honestly, I did not expect this out of him, but it looks like Ryan’s pushing him to be himself has paid off.

I did not plan to watch any of the convention live, but my father wanted to check it out and PBS had it live. It was the testimonials by people who knew Romney when he was a bishop that changed the mood of the entire convention. Extraordinarily emotional and given by everyday people rather than politicians, the bored and barely polite delegates got teary eyed. For the first time, Mitt the real man was revealed to the surprise of the people.

Reaction on the conservative and libertarian side of the Net followed the same pattern. The whole night of speakers were very effective at conveying the Mitt Romney they know and included a liberal Democrat who served in his administration in Massachusetts. Her heartfelt endorsement of Mitt’s authenticity and goodness really was a special moment.

The Olympic medalists were a surprise and quite good too. It was good to see Scott Hamilton up there.

Clint Eastwood channeled a mix of Don Rickles and Bob Newhart in a devastating comic routine involving talking to Obama in an empty chair. Strange at first, it turned into something amazing by the end.

Rubio was smooth and impressive introducing Romney. I can see why great things are expected for him.

But it was Mitt’s make or break moment and he was incredible. Where has this man been the whole campaign? Absolutely tremendous speech and hard hitting on Obama’s short comings made even more impressive by the fact he writes his own speeches.
I think this is the real beginning of the campaign.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bleach Ep. 18: Reclaim! The Power of the Shinigami!

That classic trope of shounen anime has arrived: the dreaded training story arc. But do not expect the normal kind of training, for the mysterious Urahara has rather… unorthodox methods. Stripped of his spiritual power, can Ichigo get it back in time to rescue Rukia from Soul Society?

Bleach1 Main Title

Bleach 18 Title

Few episodes in Bleach veer so radically between comedy and seriousness as this one. There were times I felt I was suffering mental whiplash, but it certainly is not a boring entry in the series. With Ichigo accepting the offer from Urahara to get his powers back at the end of the last episode, it was pretty obvious we would get a mini-arc with a power up at the end of it. Oh how I dreaded it when first watching the show -- for they are the most boring things in anime to me.

Bleach 18 Ichigo BroodsBleach 18 Memory of Rukia Fades

Returning to school for the first time since Rukia was taken back to Soul Society, Ichigo broods constantly about her absence. Nobody else remembers her at all, which compounds the pain he feels. She haunts him to the point he visualizes her fading away like a ghost, which manages to inject some poignancy into the midst of the slapstick comedy involving his classmates.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Defense of Fantasy and Sci-Fi B-Movies

In which I opine on the merits of B-movies of yesteryear, their decline, and how they haven’t really gone extinct.

Being a child of the 1970s, I was fortunate to grow up during a transitional period in cinema and before VCRs (along with cable television) changed how we see movies. The only places to see movies were at the theater and on broadcast, so a lot of very old movies were my main diet. Hey, movie tickets cost money even at the third run small town theater. Unlike other kids, it was rare to go out to see a badly faded and scratched print.

B Movies 01 War of the WorldsB Movies 02 War of the Worlds

So I got to watch the badly faded and scratched prints cropped to television box format via the miracle of pan and scan. Most of the movies were much older than I was, so black and white flicks were watched nearly as much as color. Do not get me started on Ted Turner’s colorizing old films in the 1980s. The words “brain dead” would be the beginning of the rant which would veer into zombie killing at some point.

So what is a B-movie?

Hate: A Challenging Dream

An attempt to sleep in resulted in one odd dream that ended on a strange note and a profound question. Part of my ongoing series Hate.

Awaking and going back to sleep rarely results in memorable dreams for me. This is not the case this morning. It started as an odd jumble involving a look at the next Captain America film in a sociopolitical context at a nearby Catholic college presentation open to the public. In the dream, I was sick and bundled in a blanket in a front row seat.

The female professor making the presentation was very liberal and very much about being in control of the discussion. We watched a clip and then she asked a question that had absolutely nothing to do with what we had just watched. Tedious conversation followed.

At that point I was losing interest in the whole thing, since it appeared to be a waste of time and I felt lousy. I saw a friend sitting several rows in front of me and we waved to each other. Yes, I was sitting in the front row and suddenly there were rows in front of me. One has to love the ability of dreams to be completely inconsistent.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

If I only Had a Brain


I have had this going through my head for a good part of the day. Why? Because I have been addled at best today. The early morning hours were not kind to me from overdoing things, so I did not make it to church. Trying to work on the post I started earlier this week turned into an ordeal and that is when this tune began to play in my head. Good thing, because it needed to be filled with something.

At least I found an old MP3 player to use as a Sunday only one. Where the good one went, I do not know. Also, I did work on changing the look of the site. Hopefully it is a bit more presentable now.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Health 8-25-2012

Well, that was not a good week. Gastrointestinal distress, high pain levels, and interrupted sleep contributed to keeping me at low ebb. I barely was able to start a rather large post and never did get back to finishing it. Chores around the house suffered the same fate.

It is pretty clear I overextended myself by making a shopping trip on Monday. There are no regrets, since badly needed items were gotten and the piper always has to be paid. Hopefully next week will be better.

Now to see if my shoe repairs worked this time around!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Headlines: Shootings and Armstrong Is a Doper

Early reports of three to four dead near the Empire State Building in New York City with the gunman dead. Like I have written before, I expect to see a lot more of this as society slowly comes apart at the seams. Too many economic and social pressures are causing marginally stable people to crack.

Meanwhile, Anders Breivik gets twenty one years for killing seventy seven people in Norway. He is eligible for early release in a mere decade. Way to protect your public, Norway!

The other big story is that Lance Armstrong quit defending himself and has been found guilty of doping. All seven Tour de France titles have been stripped from him. It puzzles me that people did not believe he was doping when that sport is completely dishonest. Frankly, all sports are populated by cheaters and dopers now and are not worth following. Certainly, the athletes should not be made heroes at this point, but the masses are desperate for secular gods.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Boy’s cancer a fight between good and evil

Boy’s cancer a fight between good and evil

I am friends of the Kuglers and have to say that Jonas is even more impressive in person. He has handled the whole ordeal incredibly well given his age. Watching the whole family deal with this has impressed me greatly -- they are amazing folks.

Movie Illiteracy

Hello to the few who read this blog!

This will be a short post while I continue writing a longer one which has brought a question to mind: Does anyone under 50 have any familiarity with classic movies these days?

I ask this because I will often mention a movie to someone below forty and get a blank look. These are not obscure movies and include:
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • Bridge Over the River Kwai
  • Zulu
  • Casablanca
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Citizen Kane

And many more I could list. Hollywood is in a downturn and has been for some time, mainly due to the dreck they insist on putting out. The latest fad it to watch HBO or Showtime for original series rather than theatrical releases due to the supposed superior quality. I've sampled those series and am unimpressed, to put it lightly.

Since I am not film illiterate and something of a buff, it would be considered my problem, not theirs by the consumers of current film and television. But I wonder if they would have a different attitude if they were versed in classic films of yesteryear?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zulu (1964) Review

Few war movies are as rousing and inspiring as this heavily fictionalized depiction of the badly out numbered British soldiers resisting an attack by 4,000 Zulu warriors in 1879. Beautiful cinematography, a sharp script, excellent acting, and and a memorable score all contribute to one of the best movies ever made. UPDATED: Aug 2012 with screencaps and revised text for the extraordinary Blu-ray.

Zulu Title

By the late 1800’s, the British empire stretched across the planet, an amazing achievement for a small island nation.  But they were stretched thin and the natives often got restless. So was the case in South Africa, where the Brits had subjugated not only the native tribes, but the Dutch descended Boers who had colonized first. It is against this backdrop that Zulu takes place.

For the purposes of the review, I will not go into all the historical inaccuracies in the film -- not even those which do grave injustice to some of the men depicted. Instead, I suggest going to rorkesdriftvc.com to read about the real men and events. It is an excellent site and worth devoting serious time to.

Zulu IsandhlwanaZulu Cetewayo and the Witts

The movie starts out in very old fashioned style by going straight to the credits which are of the no-nonsense kind. But the music is wonderful, large and dramatic, promising great things to come. As the music fades, a narration by Richard Burton informs us of the complete wipeout of 1,500 British soldiers on the slopes of the mountain Isandhwlana at the hands of Zulu warriors. A full fledged rebellion has begun.

Political Follies

Sometimes I wonder about the intelligence of humanity in general. But if there is one segment that has a disproportionate number of members who seem to be willing to do the stupidest thing possible in any given situation, it has to be politicians. They have gotten to be so much like the Hollywood/celebrity set in their peccadillos that they are indistinguishable -- except one group has control of our lives.

The latest wave of stupidity has hit both the Republican and Democratic parties. In Missouri, U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin said what has to be the most ill informed, if not mentally ill, statement about pregnancies and rape. Endorsed by Mike Huckabee and indirectly by his opponent, Claire McCaskill, the moron refuses to step aside even though it is obvious it cost him the election. By all accounts he was the weakest candidate, which is why McCaskill dropped over a million in ads calling him the most conservative candidate in a successful effort to influence the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, the state of Minnesota has produced yet another winner in State Representative Kerry Gauthier of Duluth. That moron was caught having oral sex with a seventeen year old boy at a rest stop. It was arranged through Craigslist so there is no doubt what was going on. His party leadership has called on him to go too.

It is said absolute power corrupts absolutely, but even a little power seems to do the trick for some. But it seems to lower the IQ as well. How can anyone be so stupid?

I have met intelligent and diligent elected officials and candidates many times, so this is not meant to tar and feather everyone involved in politics. It just seems more idiots have gotten involved and are having success in their endeavors. That is a scary concept and I hope I am simply being more aware of this kind of idiocy. If not, oh boy.

BTW, Joe Biden was not mentioned, simply because he is in a class by himself.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another Blogger Referral Spammer: Pnarp

Yep, another one that has been around for awhile but keeps changing servers and countries. If you see any referrals from pnarp . com please do not click on them, there have been some reports of malware being automatically downloaded. Flicker users have also had problems with it in the past and other social media sites (Digg, Twitter, other blog services) have seen this joker show up too.

UPDATE 8-26-2012: 

Found another spammer, pregolom . com out of Russia. It does not appear to be related to pnarp, but it seems like there is a big uptick in referral spam lately.  It along with filmhill . com have been showing up in large numbers the past week.

Odd and Ends 8-20-2012

Despite Monday being the toughest day of the week for my health, I felt inspired to head to Winona, MN to get some ammo and maybe a cheapish phone. My eight year old Motorola cordless runs through replacement batteries at a faster clip than it used to, while acting strangely of late. At Amazon, I had wish listed a well reviewed AT&T corded and cordless DECT 6.0 combo, something I had never dreamed existed and perfect for rural life. But the price went up and I was reluctant to pull the trigger.

So it is much to my surprise that I have the AT&T phone charging at the moment in the living room while the corded base keeps watch in my room. It turns out they had a couple in stock at Mills Fleet Farm where I got my cheap Russian .223 ammo! Now I am penniless until my next Social Security check, but I am very relieved to have a working telephone. The extra range of the phone should be very helpful since the Samsung barely worked at the other end of the not very big house.

Why Tablets are Not the Future of Computing

Just a short post to relay the story of an Apple user who ran into an old man who does not like the company. Why? Because they are killing creativity by pushing iPads. I love his reasoning and even more that he has bona fides that cannot be looked down upon. While I love using my 7” Android based tablet as a glorified book reader, I do not approve of the bigger ones for the same reasons given by the old man.

The other moral to the story is that you can run into the most interesting people if you are willing to have conversations with strangers. So go read the story already!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Five Years Ago: The Rushford Flood

It is hard to believe that it has been so long since the August 18, 2007 flood that filled Rushford and the accompanying rains that heavily damaged much of Houston County. I just ate at The Creamery in Rushford and was explaining to a younger couple that the restaurant had been filled with four feet of water. Much of life has returned to normal in that small town, thankfully.

As part of my renovating the blog, I have been going back and properly tagging posts. This week happened to be the one assigned to that, so I have been looking at those posts and reliving what happened. I’ll let my words and photos from back then tell the story:

Little did I know that less than a year later there would be more flooding locally and across the border in Wisconsin. Soldiers Grove took the hit during that one, but it was surreal to see such damage again is so short a time. There is nothing quite like the feeling of helplessness when faced with a natural disaster.

I really hope I never feel it again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Squid Girl OVA Mini Episodes, Season 1

Having struck pay dirt with the appearance of Mini-Squid Girl in episode five, the crew behind the show decided to make a couple of shorts that were bundled with the Blu-rays released in Japan. Over four minutes of concentrated cuteness  contained in each will leave you smiling.

Squid Girl Main Title[2]

OVA 1

Mini Squid Girl OVA 01 Bye ByeMini Squid Girl OVA 01 Dark Ika Musame

When Eiko goes off to school, her pet Mini-Squid Girl plans to get some extra sleep. To her deep surprise, another version of her is already sleeping in her bed! We will call her Dark Mini-Squid Girl, for her clothing and cap are black instead of white.

Trust

A post in which I ramble about trust, lies, and forgiveness.

Inspired by a post by Hanny, I have been pondering the topic of trust for the past day. While he writes about his personal issues with trust, the decline of trust in our society is what has dominated my thinking. There have been two eras in my life where trust has disintegrated within our society with the first being the Watergate fallout. The second is harder for me to figure out when it started and for good reason. I will get back to that in a bit.

It would be good for me to write a disclaimer of sorts.

A year and half ago, I went through a pain therapy course involving meditation to relieve chronic pain. In order to join the course, I had to take the multiphasic personality test that professionals belief reveal all about you. According to it, I trust too easily.

Anybody who knows me in any kind of depth knows I do not trust people one whit. My favorite mental phrase is “I don’t trust them any further than I can shoot them.” Seriously, I am not joking. When I was very young, I was trusting. It was interactions with other humans that completely destroyed that. Betrayal is something I learned about early and repeatedly.

Health 8-17-2012

I have been plagued by a runny nose and sneezing since late last night. I suppose that a check on allergy alerts is merited…

Ah, ragweed. I should have known.

On a more positive note, my routine of using  Audiosurf to see how I am doing has given way to more serious gaming in the morning. The NADH is helping a lot, so I am a great deal clearer minded and alert in the mornings. This allows me to do things more complicated than a crossword puzzle and a simple game, though you would not believe it by the bad session this morning.  Also, I have become a morning person, which is something I strived for over the years being a nocturnal type.

Still not up to speed energy or strength wise. Next week will be better, I think.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Squid Girl Ep. 12 First Season Finale

The delightfully silly first season of Squid Girl comes to a close with only two stories instead of the usual three. Raucous beach action fills the first third, while an unusually down story takes up the rest. Laughter, unnecessary violence, and heartfelt emotion show off all of the show’s best attributes in memorable squid fashion.

Squid Girl Main Title[2]

What a fun ride this little series has been. It was only my second dip into comedy anime and I am glad to have found such rampant silliness able to cross over cultures.

Anysquid Up for a Game?

Squid Girl 12 Beach Volleyball ContestSquid Girl 12 Ika and Eiko Team Up

Beach volleyball has grown in popularity worldwide, but it seems that it really struck a chord in Japan. There have been anime and manga devoted to it, so it makes sense we would get a good spoof of the sport since the series is set on a beach.

When the Aizawa family spots a signup sheet for a volleyball tournament with a grand prize of a 3D television set, dedicated gamer Eiko can’t wait to sign up. After being told what 3D means, Squid Girl decides she is in too. Setting aside their differences, the two form a team determined to dominate the contest.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Six Years of Blogging

In all the events of yesterday, I forgot to post about it being six years since I started this blog. It can safely be said the blog is not exactly what I thought it would be.The first post was not anything profound, but was in the spirit of trying to keep a journal of some kind.

At the time, I figured I would post about daily things and links to articles I found interesting. While I still do that from time to time, the desire to write and resurrect my rusty skills at it gradually took over. Most of that took the form of reviews, which I never expected to get involved in writing, and the occasional essay.

Six years. That is hard to comprehend, but looking back at the first post I notice they do not have any tags on them. Time to fix that.

Looking to the future, I expect the blog to keep changing. It is a reflection of me and my refusal to be complacent about life, so change is unavoidable. Hopefully it will be an interesting journey and some of the posts will be too.

The ‘Burbs (1989) Review

Forget urban paranoia, suburban paranoia is where it’s at in this darkly amusing comedy about the denizens of one cul-de-sac reacting to their new neighbors. An oddball mix of broad comedy, mystery, and arrested maturity, The ‘Burbs is a highly entertaining skewering of normality at every turn. But don’t expect a heavy handed lecture, for this is an affectionate take on neighbors with characters that may seem similar to people you have known.

The Burbs Title

The 1980s was good decade for comedies on television and in theaters, from what I recall. About every form of humor was at its peak, so it is interesting to look back at this movie which came out at the end of the decade. Director Joe Dante’s satire about living in the suburbs was well timed. Mass migration (often referred to as “white flight”) had emptied city neighborhoods of middle class families seeking greener pastures – or at least small lawns. Fertile ground for comedy was there and mixing it with horror movie tropes made a minor classic that is fondly remembered by many.

The Burbs Ray PetersonThe Burbs Walter

The ‘Burbs begins with a clever zoom in that starts with Universal’s famous globe logo and ends up in the labyrinthine streets of a suburb.  Specifically, the dead end street of Mayfield Place, where it is night out and strange noises from a run down house have Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) losing sleep. There is something of a horror movie atmosphere to the setup, but quickly the humor makes its appearance. Watch what happens when he steps into the neighbor’s yard and back again to see what I am talking about.

Yes, I am already telling you to go see the movie and the review is barely underway. Deal with it.

Another Day at the Polls, Another Fiasco for the MNGOP

Ron Paul’s libertarians have struck another blow on behalf of losing to Democrats. Yesterday, an incredibly low turnout of 3% of voters participated in the primary and, like the caucuses before, it enabled the Paul backed candidates to get the nod.

Kurt Bills barely won against a candidate nobody knew anything about. Running in tribute to a noted leftist, Paul Wellstone, shows just how Republican he really is. Meanwhile, in CD1, the Paul backers got Allan Quist in over a much superior candidate. I guess spending money on those terrible television ads worked.

The blame does not mainly fall on Ron Paul’s followers. This is the end result of laziness, corruption, and sheer stupidity by the MNGOP leadership with the rank and file Republicans being just as bad. If people would pay attention and get involved, the fringe would not take over. For all intents and purposes, the state party is dead.

As of today, I no longer consider myself a member of the zombie state party and beholden to voting for the candidates running under the Republican banner. At least I can stay aligned with the national party, which still has room for true conservatives. I no longer feel guilt about my health taking me out of political volunteer work after watching the incredible stupidity being put on display.

I will not be voting for Quist or Bills, which is effectively voting for Walz and Klobuchar. It does not matter, for neither has a snowball’s chance in Hades to win. It is a pity, for this looks to be a vulnerable election cycle for Democrats in general.

I will be voting for Greg Davids HD26B, Jeremy Miller SD26, and Romney/Ryan. All of them have my full support and I expect to write letters to the editor on their behalf.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why I Support Mike Parry for Congress in MN CD-1

Ever since Gil Gutknecht lost to Tim Walz in 2006, the GOP candidacies have been hamstrung by internal strife amongst the party activists. Bitter feelings, back stabbings, and conspiracies have made it seem like a ridiculous soap opera out of Hollywood. Much of the disintegration of the state party was already well underway here in southern Minnesota, so it was with weary eyes that I watched the slow motion train wreck under Sutton. Sadly, things are still contentious in the district.

It is against this backdrop that I endorse Mike Parry in the Republican primary tomorrow. Mike has been a solid conservative in the legislature and has lived a life of service through stints in the Army National Guard and as a peace officer (an old fashioned way to say “cop”) before running for office. In my opinion, he has the best credentials and chance to defeat Tim Walz in November.

The endorsement campaign was an ugly one, which was not a surprise when Quist threw his hat in the ring yet again. Those who have been in politics long enough or know their state history could see that it would go to a primary the moment he announced. There are those who are labeled “loose cannons” and then there are those who really are loose cannons; Quist is the latter.

I think of the old WWII poster “Loose Lips Sink Ships!” every time I review his record and wince. If he gets the go ahead tomorrow, it will be a contest to see if he can get a lower percentage of the vote than Brian Davis did in 2008. That is simple political reality, folks.

Parry has energy that can be infectious and the fact he has raised more money from donations than Quist testifies to his abilities to compete. I will also say that I flat out like Mike from talking with him multiple times. That is a factor that cannot be underestimated come November.

So if you are a Republican in Minnesota CD-1, get out and vote in the primary for Mike Parry. He is the best man for the job and the kind of person we need representing us in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Health 8-12-2012

Time to report in on how things are going. Other than having a nearly perpetual low level headache, the Lyme Disease symptoms have all but vanished. As I type, a gentle throb in the temples reminds me I did not get through the illness unscathed and this may be the new normal.

Today was a tough one due to waking up tired and aching due to the cold, damp weather. I managed to survive driving almost an hour each way (what a horrible detour) and teaching two Sunday school classes. The drive back was tougher and I found myself nodding off several times along the way. I do not advise driving through hairpin turns on a hill in this condition, by the way. So kids, do not try this at home!

Once home, I tried fending off the need to sleep by watching a movie, but kept nodding off on it – which is really bad since it was a subtitled one! The nap that followed was filled with dreams of rain and joint pain. Not exactly the escape I would prefer.

My face feels rubbery, which is usually a sign that I have gone way past my limits. Forget usually, it is always an indicator I have burned up all my energy.

Alright, I have done my duty in recording my health, time to post this.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fractale Episode 5: Journey

The series slows down considerably to show some not so obvious character development and let comedy take center stage.  Phryne slowly opens up, while Clain discovers manual labor.  But where is Nessa? Fractal: Reiterated continues with HD screencaps and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 05 Journey

One of these days I’ll try to make an animated GIF out of the opening sequence.  Fractal patterns have always fascinated me and I really like the opening credits. By this point, the opening theme had really grown on me as well.

At first Journey feels like a filler episode, albeit one with some good character moments. After all the madness in the prior episodes, the pacing mellows out and in some ways it is a slice of life story. Most of the story is about normality, but most telling is how alien that is to Clain.

Fractale 05 Airship 1Fractale 05 Airship

The episode takes place on board the Granite’s fascinating airship, which is not named.  The sheer size of the thing is impressive and we get something of a tour of its insides throughout this installment of Fractale.  Being on the run from the Temple attack that happened in the prior episode, the rebels are carefully staying in the dead zones of Fractale’s failing coverage. For the moment, there is peace and an opportunity to see their daily lives more closely.

Romney Picks Ryan for VP

Hmm. Not a wonderful political choice and it appears that picking up voters or a specific state/region was not a factor. That makes it an unusual choice, much like when McCain picked Palin. But I think the reasoning is completely different here and has more to do with Mitt’s approach to governance.

To me, this is a sign that Romney will approach being President of the United States in the same manner that he approached business. He was looking for someone competent that would fit well with his economic plans. In other words, he really did look at the resumes of the potential vice presidents and hired the one he thought could do the job best. Unlike the pundits, I believe Mitt made the decision rather than having Ryan forced on him.

While I am not a big Paul Ryan fan due to suspicions about his late conversion on fiscal issues, I think the choice reflects well on Romney the man. How it reflects on Romney the candidate may be another issue entirely. I do not see Ryan being a greater aid to the campaign than Bobby Jindall, Marco Rubio, or Chris Christie. So I am watching to see if Ryan will win me over and also voters. If there were worries about the Tea Party voters not turning out, it would explain the choice – but they were a slam dunk to show up at the polls anyway.

The collective brain power of the team exceeds Obama and Biden by many gigawatts though. This is easily the smartest ticket run in my lifetime. That may may it difficult for them to connect with the voters, but since team Obama is devoted to running the dirtiest campaign since before the Civil War it is hard to tell if it will make a difference.

Will issues win this election? I would love to say they will, but the public has become very vulnerable to demagoguery so lying and making up attacks really do work. If issues were the motivator, the upcoming election would be a landslide for Romney regardless of his veep pick. Expect Medicare scare tactics and more Romney killed people libel and slander as a result.

So is it a game changer like so many are writing and saying? Not in my opinion. Excepting Portman, any of the other names bandied about would have had a bigger effect on the general election.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) Review

While Gojira was a serious film about the horrors of nuclear tests, Godzilla, King of the Monsters turned the Japanese original into a mere monster movie of the type so common during the 1950s. It isn’t without its charms, however. The spectacle of the title monster trashing Tokyo is complete and the human suffering that causes is still there to elevate this slightly beyond a normal B-movie. UPDATED August 2012 with better screencaps and expanded snark, err… text.

Godzilla King of the Monsters Title

From the comprehensive booklet included in the 50th anniversary DVD release, we find how the American version came to be. Harold Ross and Richard Kay brought the film to America on the cheap to take advantage of the explosion in B-movies.  Described as “Hollywood bottom-feeders,” they had one problem with the movie – all the Japanese in it.  At the time, hatred of the Japanese was still strong ten years after World War II and a movie starring “Japs” couldn’t make money.

The solution was to shoot new material starring an American actor and splice it in.  About 20 minutes of the 80 minute movie would consist of the new scenes and insertions, heavily diluting the original story.  But that didn’t matter because audiences would be going to see the “King of Monsters” not the story. The result raked in $2 million and turned a tidy profit while making fans of Godzilla such as Gomer Pyle.

Now on to the review starring Raymond Burr and his pipe!

Godzilla KoM Tokyo RuinsGodzilla KoM Steve Martin Rubble

The Americanized version starts with the sound of explosive footfalls and the new title appears over the sea. In a jarring shift, the first scene of the movie is the devastated ruins of Tokyo in miniature.  A voice over narration by Raymond Burr begins while he makes his first appearance pinned under rubble.  After failing to free himself, he passes out.  Not an auspicious debut for the hero of the movie.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Gojira (Godzilla 1954) Review

In 1954, Gojira hit Japanese theaters and was a sensation that eventually spread world wide. For those who don’t know, Gojira is the original Japanese Godzilla movie that started the series. This first film is a serious movie, unlike nearly all the ones that followed. In 2004, Toho Studios decided to restore and remaster the epic for its 50th anniversary DVD release. So now that I have my hands on it, does it live up to its reputation as a classic? UPDATED:  August 2012 with expanded text and better screen captures.

Gojira Title

As a kid, I grew up with the later Godzilla movies and it was not until I was a teenager that I saw the heavily recut American version of the film starring Raymond Burr. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise, being a darker and more serious story than I had expected. Once the Internet age dawned, I found out that it paled in comparison to the Japanese film it originated from, but there was no way to see it.

Years went by and then rumors of a New York City showing of the original movie for the 50th anniversary of Gojira got my attention. Hopes of a DVD release turned into reality thanks to ClassicMedia, but it ended up being out of my price range. Time went by and a sale at a Target in Indiana landed the very nice deluxe release in my hands. This review applies to it and to the discs in The Godzilla Collection also put out by the same folks.

Gojira Kingo Maru CrewGojira Burning Ship

The movie starts with a strident and bombastic theme by Akira Futabe that fits the tension that permeates the entire production. After the credits roll, an idyllic scene of a merchant ship’s crew relaxing on deck seems very serene.  A bright flash of light draws their attention to a strange glowing mass in the water. Another flash and the ship explodes into flames. The distress call of the Kingo Maru results in the Eiko Maru being sent to find it, whereupon it promptly sails into a glowing circle of water and explodes like the first ship.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

1987 Looks at 2012

Twenty five years ago a group of science fiction authors were asked to predict where the world would be in 2012. Most of them were off and not by a little. Orson Scott Card got the closest, with Roger Zelazny next best. Isaac Asimov and Tim Powers were so far off as to be laughable.  Still, it is a fascinating glimpse at the difficulties of prognostication even from the most imaginative of us.

Bleach Ep. 17: Ichigo Dies!

Despair dominates the story when Ichigo finds out just how powerful Soul Reapers really are during a bloody battle over Rukia. Action filled, this episode marks a turning point in the storyline and sets up the next big arc.

Bleach1 Main TitleBleach 17 Title

In the previous episode, Ichigo found out that the zanpakutos are more than magic swords that can cut up spirits. They have names and special powers which the villainous Renji demonstrated in easily overpowering the substitute Soul Reaper during the opening recap. Brought to his knees trying to rescue Rukia, things look very bad indeed.

Bleach 17 Ichigo in ShockBleach 17 Rukia Restrains Renji

Clearly shocked, and in shock, the high school student is helpless as Renji prepares to finish him off. He is not the only one shaken, for Rukia is horrified to see him so badly injured. Desperate to provide him a chance to escape, she attacks the tattooed Soul Reaper and tries to restrain him despite her weak body.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Yes, Idiots Mistake Sikhs for Muslims

Something that irked me about commenters on some right wing blogs (not owners or official posters) has been the immediate rejection of the idea that the temple shooter in Wisconsin might have confused the Sikhs with Muslims. While I despise the use of the word “reactionary,” this seems to fit the situation. It is not an illogical motive for the murders and certainly not out of the realm of speculation.

Depending on whether the neo-Nazi left any letters behind, we will possibly find out what his real motivation. It probably was pure racism, rather than against a specific religion, but I have found white supremacist types to be ignorant middle grade morons so getting two very different beliefs confused would be easy. Time may tell.

Actually, many educated people have no clue who the Sikhs are for that matter. About the only portrayal in mass media I can remember would have been Bend It Like Beckham ten years ago. With the growth in immigrants from India in the past twenty years or so, people would be wise to get a little more familiar with the various cultures and religion from that large nation.

My father just returned from a two week stay with my sister and on the way down on Amtrak he had a conversation with a Sikh gentleman. The topic of being mistaken for being a Muslim came up and the man said that he had experienced that kind of hostility. He also said the people responsible for that reaction were idiots. The conversation took place well before the shootings.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Parking Lot Conversations

Over the past few years, I have noticed a strange pattern of having extended conversations in parking lots with friends and acquaintances. Parking lots are not the best locations in the world for talking, but it keeps happening. It does not matter what time of the year it is or what temperature it is out there, though precipitation will drive us indoors or into our cars to finally head home.

Did I mention this happens when we are supposed to be going home? It never happens on the way into a building or to meet up. There appears to be an unwritten (and unsaid at that) rule that the later it is at night the longer the conversations will be.

But most alarming is the development of talking where cars should be during the daytime. Why is that alarming? When I got up this morning, my nose and forehead looked like a boiled lobster, that is why. I could not understand how it had happened until I remembered what happened after church yesterday.

Yes, you guessed it: a parking lot conversation. Actually it was closer to three rather than a single event, which would explain why I was out there too long in the sun. Obviously, we need to outlaw parking lots to prevent this kind of thing happening to the unwary.

Friday, August 03, 2012

A Prelude to Hate

After reading the news this past week, it has struck me that there is a pattern that groups of people exhibit that show a steady decline  towards hostility of the armed and unarmed kind. While I have long understood some of the mechanisms involved, one that had escaped me until recently was how false labels of hatred and bigotry (or oppression back in the day) can be used to foster the very things they claim to be combating. This has become the main weapon of choice on the political left in the United States over the past few years.

It is all very basic “us vs. them” behavior, but as I dwelt on it, I realized this is how societies crumble. Breaking down people into special interest groups is the same as forming tribes or, in a more modern urban variation, street gangs and mafia. This segregation leads to growing feelings of distance toward any group that is not your group. It then becomes easy to attribute falsehoods to the “others” because the are obviously bad – if they were good, they would be part of the group.

More Renovations

Looking back at my early review posts recently, I realized I need to do some serious rewriting of a good number of them. Some will required a new DVD purchase, but most need better screencaps and text refinements to cover the technical merits of the release.

A good example of what I am up to is the first renovated review, The Black Hole. It required a new DVD because of the HDTV and so it was an excuse to rewrite an early review. What I did not expect is how much of the text needed to be rewritten! One bonus from all this is that the structure for reviews is finally standardized.

Reviews to be reworked:
  • Godzilla: Tokyo SOS – DVD in hand so better screencaps DONE
  • Gammera – DVDs on the way and will be both versions DONE
  • Stargate: Continuum – full rewrite DONE
  • Forbidden Planet – full rewrite, maybe Blu-ray upgrade? DONE
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – minor tweaks plus better screencaps DONE
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – full rewrite DONE
  • The Watcher in the Woods – Full Rewrite DONE
  • Smallville: Absolute Justice 1 and 2 – Full rewrite
  • Godzilla: King of Monsters – Better screencaps, tweaking DONE
  • Gojira – Better screencaps, tweaking DONE
  • Zulu – better screencaps, tweaking for Blu-ray release DONE
  • Battle of Britain -- HD screencaps, rewrite DONE
  • Only Yesterday -- Better screencaps, technical details
The reworks will be alternated with new reviews, despite the temptation to get them done and over with.

New reviews planned, in no particular order:
  • Godzilla Raids Again/Gigantus, The Fire Monster – DVD, Japanese Original and US DONE
  • Whisper of the Heart – Blu-ray and DVD DONE
  • Animal Crackers – DVD DONE
  • Troll Hunter – Blu-ray DONE
  • TRON – DVD DONE
  • Love and Honor – DVD DONE
  • The African Queen – Blu-ray DONE
  • Tora, Tora, Tora – Blu-ray
  • The Last Dinosaur – DVD DONE
  • The Bobo – DVD DONE
  • Ikiru – DVD
  • The Burbs – DVD DONE
  • Beowulf – DVD DONE
With a personal library of hundreds of movies on DVD and Blu-ray, I am not lacking for material. If I were to give up all new shows and movies, I would still be set for a very long time.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Squid Girl Episode 11

The anime series proves it can do horror when a creepy doll is found, science fiction when Cindy turns her sights onto a new target, and nature documentary when a mountain hike goes terribly wrong. Laughter keeps on coming no matter what the genre is when Ika Musame invades it!

Squid Girl Main Title[2]

Proving the quality of the early episodes was no fluke, Squid Girl stays strong in its penultimate installment of the first season. In fact, it is one of the most solid episodes of the entire series.

Squid Girl 11 DeppSquid Girl 11 Johnny and Depp

Why Is This Doll So Fishy?

There are few things creepier than a doll designed to be cute, but that looks disturbing instead. Clowns may be one of those things, but even an evil clown would have trouble competing with the doll that stars in this tale.  Depp is an old toy of Eiko’s that she finds in a storage box in the Aizawa residence. Right away, the thing is unnerving to Squid Girl and most likely anyone watching the show. The animation also takes an unsettling air of a horror movie, which is something the Japanese excel at.